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Letter ReferenceHRC/CAT/OS/4b-xxii
ArchiveHarry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date6 July 1907
Address FromHanover, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 270-72; Draznin 1992: 480-2
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
The Project is grateful to the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, the University of Texas at Austin, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Manuscript Collections. Dating this letter has followed Draznin (1992), who has done so by reference to a version in Cronwright-Schreiner's (1924) The Letters. Schreiner was resident in Hanover from September 1900 to October 1907, after 1902 with visits, sometimes fairly lengthy, elsewhere. The beginning of the letter is missing.
1[page/s missing]
3they cannot return the love to leave them & never if possible to allow
4them to see them. If I, for instance, had insisted on Donkin’s never
5meeting me or speaking to me, he might have been happy & married
6before; & if I had not insisted on all intercourse ending when it did,
7I believe he would never had married anyone else & kept on loving me
8till today.
10I believe th & I know, that there are hundreds of husband’s who would
11have lived all their lives tenderly & passionately in love with one
12another if they had never separated for a day; who, if separated for
13six months or a year drift away from each other at once & never once
14come near again I believe it ^physical^ absence is fatal to “inloveness”
15except where there is a deep & purely intellectual sympathy. So far
16from Edward Carpenters theory being true that separation adds to the
17love between married people; I believe for the average man & woman
18there is more truth in the thing I heard an old Cape Town woman say
19sixteen years ago, that if a woman lets her husband be separated from
20her for six months she may just as well get a divorce from him”;
21meaning that he will have ceased to love her & care for such someone
22else. I believe that the five or six months trip to Europe that so
23many men in South Africa take, has ended more love & done more to
24darken homes & lives by making life henseforward loveless, than any
25other cause
. The terrible problem seems to be that while multitudes of
26men will feel loyal & tender & passionately drawn to a woman as long
27as they are unbrokenly with her, multitudes are absolutely unable to
28maintain any love, as soon as separation comes. With them it is always
29the nearest woman.
31Taking “inloveness” in its nicest sense, Friendship may be increased
32by absence. Whenever I didn’t see Karl Pearson & thought only of his
33work & & the terrible incurable disease he had told me he was dying of,
34 I love him with a strange intensity, but the moment I saw him or came
35near him, & kind of constitutional antipathy seemed to put him far
36from me. With Bob Muirhead on the other hand, as soon as he was away
37from my me I felt a great as was my friendship for him, & admiration
38for his noble character, it was easy for me to pass days without ever
39remembering him, but as soon as I meet him, the deep still joy &
40delight & satisfaction which his presence gave me came back, & I am
41quite sure that if ever I had been compelled to live ^in the same house^
42with him for six months or a year it would have ended in my loving him
43so desparately I would have been obliged to I marry him. There is no
44cure for “inloveness” but absence.
46My father was madly, intensely, passionately inlove with my mother all
47his life, be worshipped her when he died an old man of 64 yet more
48than when he married her a young man of 21; but if it had ever been
49necessary for him to leave her for six months, or a year, or two years,
50 would it have survived the separation? The statement that absence is
51necessary to the continuance of love & passion seem to me the most at
52variance of with fact of anything I ever heard! Of course in the case
53of Dan a fantastic intellectual delusion like Dates, no doubt if he
54had ever known Beatrice, if he had spent a week with her, be would
55would most likely have called her a horrid, vain, stupid little girl,
56& have found some other woman or object to hang his verses to. But
57then such a feeling is no more being in love with a person, than the
58feeling imaginary Jesus Christ whom be conjures up out of his inner
59conscious¬ness & who perhaps has never existed at all.
61I believe that there is a purely vital attraction between human
62creatures (not only sexual in the ordinary sense) which will always
63awake when those two persons meet, & where that strange vital
64attraction is supplement by a strong intellectual sympathy, then you
65have the pos most perfect deathless relation that can exist between
66two human creatures.
68I am better this week & have been out several times. I went to the
69debate in parliament on woman’s suffrage. The report is so absolutely
70false The speeches of the men on our side were magnificent, especially
71Sauers and Malan’s.
For Edward Carpenter's 'theory', see his (1894) Marriage in Free Society Manchester: Labour Press Society. Draznin's (1992) version of this letter is in some respects different from our transcription. Cronwright-Schreiner's (1924) lengthy extract includes the letter's start but is also incorrect in various ways.